Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie.
The two names could not be more different and yet they’ve proved a constant source of confusion for every visitor that has graced Selhurst Park this season. With an identical bag of tricks at their disposal, the devastating duo have run riot in equal measures, leaving commentators tongue-tied and defenders on their backsides.
Last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Blackpool proved frustrating in more ways than one. After Nathan Delfouneso had opened the scoring, Bolasie picked out Owen Garvan with a pinpoint cross to nod home the equaliser. Unfortunately the Football League show gifted the assist to Wilfried Zaha, despite the fact he was seen celebrating with Garvan on the other side of pitch, just seconds later. He’s quick, but not that quick.
The euphoria surrounding Zaha has reached delirious heights since the young starlet made his international debut last month, and while many have been eager to suggest his performances have suffered since, it’s merely a result of having at least two defenders clinging onto his coattails at all times. However, with the spotlight and majority of defenders fixated on Zaha, Bolasie has taken full advantage from the acres of space on the opposite flank.
“He does attract a lot of players which means I get a lot of space at times and it’s only going to help the team if I get a lot of space as well but’s definitely a good thing if Wilf is mercurial.” (London24)
Bolasie arrived at Selhurst Park as a figure shrouded in mystery. I for one was completely unaware of the potential simmering under the surface, especially considering the relatively insignificant transfer fee of £300k that was reported in the press. However, unless his move to the bright lights of London has triggered a startling transformation, it seems clear that he was incredibly undervalued while residing at Bristol City.
There is always a risk that two comparable players will rub each other up the wrong way when they attempt to co-exist in the same set-up. Thankfully the exact opposite has occurred in SE25, with both men thriving on one another’s positional and link-up play. It’s as though they are trying to outdo one another with their countless step overs and while the team often suffers during such mucho rivalry, the opposing defenders are always the ones that lose out.
Although they may share similar attributes, there is still an air of individuality about both men. Bolasie is blessed with surprising strength and resilience on the ball whereas Zaha has a more instinctive eye for goal. These minor differences allow both players to constantly learn from one another and have served to generate a contagious buzz of anticipation before each fixture.
Alongside either Owen Garvan or new Brazilian import André Moritz, the pair have helped form a ruthless attacking trio. The midfield is bolstered by the imposing figures of Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi, another name commentators often struggle with. Credit must go to former manager Dougie Freedman for crafting one of the most balanced midfields in the league and also to Ian Holloway for maintaining the equilibrium since his arrival.
For those of you who only possess a fleeting interest in Championship football, Crystal Palace share the same attacking philosophy as Swansea City. The ball is zipped around on the floor and just like Michu looks to feed off the delivery of Nathan Dyer and former Eagle Wayne Routledge, Glenn Murray will do the same when Zaha and Bolasie inevitably skip past their markers.
If I seem a little excitable and gushing with sensationalised praise, it’s because this is the best Palace side I have witnessed in over a decade. Imagine where Liverpool would be with an identical copy of Raheem Sterling on the opposite flank, probably within touching distance of the top of the table, just like Palace.
The prospect of the Premier League is turning into a very realistic dream, but the ‘threat’ of the transfer window will always keep supporter’s feet firmly on the ground. However, if or rather when clubs are priced out of a move for Zaha, I wouldn’t be surprised if several looked at Bolasie as the cheaper yet equally effective alternative.
As reporters continue to struggle distinguishing between the two, I find myself asking which one is supposed to be rated at £20m. Because in recent weeks, it’s been both of them.